Group hears tales of village’s historic jobs

A photograph of some of the Branscombe coastguards and their wives on a rare occassion where they co

A photograph of some of the Branscombe coastguards and their wives on a rare occassion where they could meet with the residents. The picture is believed to have been taken at a Christmas or New Year get together, around 1900. - Credit: Archant

The untold story of Branscombe’s blacksmith and coastguard were the centre of a talk looking into village life.

John Torrance and Sue Dymond spoke at The Branscombe Project’s last meeting after tracing the history of the occupations over hundreds of years.

Branscombe’s smithy has been at the heart of the village for centuries.

The Old Forge first appears on the 1793 estate maps as part of the former Bridge Farm. Generations of blacksmiths have hired the building - originally from the Ford family until 1965, when it was taken over by the National Trust. Guest speaker John Torrance said: “Travel back about 150 years — say, to 1865 — and you’ll find most villages had a blacksmith’s shop. Now there are hardly any.

“As petrol engines replaced horses on the roads and in the fields, smithies disappeared or else were transformed into other businesses, often garages. In fact, there were three smithies in Branscombe in the mid-19th century - at Bridge and at Street, and another run by the Selway family at Hole Bottom.”

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Since the 1980s, the forge has been run by brothers Andrew and then Gary Hall, who produce wrought-iron goods for the luxury and tourist markets.

The Branscombe Project also heard about the history of the village’s coastguards, who patrolled the coast to stop smugglers in the 1800s.

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Speaker Sue Dymond said that the coastguards ‘had a community within the community’ as they were forbidden to fraternise with residents.

She said: “We have all these tales of the smugglers about how they outwitted the authorities, but you never hear about the authorities.”

The coastguards and their families were based in a village for a small period of time before they would be moved on. Sue added: “It’s sad for the families because they did not have the chance to make friends, they had to move on.”

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